CU Boulder is excited to welcome students back for a COVID-19 ready fall semester with a flexible, in-person experience designed for safety that ensures access and quality for our students and moves the campus forward.

Read Road Map to Fall 2020

ISSS is diligently monitoring immigration-related developments related to COVID-19. Please continue to check our website for updates.

This webpage provides information related to the fall 2020 semester. ISSS is currently working to develop FAQs and will add additional information as it becomes available.

  • Information is currently not available for Spring 2021.

Frequenty Asked Questions

Please note that “continuing students” refers to students that have an active F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record and have been studying at CU Boulder prior to fall 2020. “New students” refers to students who have an initial I-20 or DS-2019 and are starting their studies this fall at CU Boulder, either as new or transfer students.

Enrollment & Maintaining Status

Yes, as long as the student is enrolled full-time or has been approved for a reduced course load.

The government has confirmed that for the fall 2020 semester students in the United States enrolled in a hybrid program of study such as CU Boulder’s that includes in-person and online components of instruction can count online classes toward a full course of study beyond the usual three credit per semester limit.

Moreover, the government has confirmed that continuing students may be engaged solely in online/distance/remote instruction from within the United States.

Yes, as long as the student is enrolled full-time or has been approved for a reduced course load.

The government has confirmed that for the fall 2020 semester continuing F-1 and J-1 students enrolled in a hybrid program of study such as CU Boulder’s that includes in-person and online instruction can count online classes toward a full course of study beyond the usual (pre-pandemic) three credit per semester limit, even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes from elsewhere.

No. New or initial nonimmigrant students who intend to pursue a full online course of study will not be issued an I-20/DS-2019 for study at CU Boulder in fall 2020 as in-person course work is required for new students. New or initial students includes transfer students who will be beginning their studies at CU Boulder in fall 2020.

Please work with International Admissions to defer your I-20/DS-2019 program start date if you are unable to enter the U.S. by August 9, 2020 to pursue a full-course of study with in-person course work.

Full-time enrollment credit requirements remain unchanged by the temporary modification of distance learning restrictions (F-1 students / J-1 students).

There are no in-person class requirements for fall 2020 for continuing F-1 and J-1 students.This means F-1 and J-1 students present in the U.S can take all their credits online or they may also take Hybrid In-Person/Online, Hybrid In-Person/Remote, or any other instruction formats.

Yes. Continuing Education (CE) classes will be all online for the fall 2020 semester. F-1 and J-1 students may take CE classes from inside or outside of the United States. Full-time enrollment credit requirements (F-1 students / J-1 students) remain unchanged by the temporary modification of distance learning restrictions.

Please note the cost for Continuing Education courses. If you have questions about the tuition and fees of continuing education courses, please reach out to If you are a sponsored student, please check if your scholarship allows you to take continuing education courses.

Yes. CU Boulder is offering a hybrid program of study for fall 2020 and after fall break, all classes will be remote (synchronous) or online (asynchronous) through the end of the semester. Students must remain full-time through the entire semester to maintain their F-1 or J-1 status, but an in-person element is not required for new students after fall break.

After fall break, students may choose to depart the United States for the remainder of the fall 2020 semester and maintain their active SEVIS record as long as they continue to be enrolled and participating in courses full-time. Students departing the U.S. should consider travel restrictions that may be in effect in the future that could delay re-entry. Students may also choose to remain in the United States for the remainder of the fall 2020 semester.

Yes. New and continuing students would be eligible to remain in the United Status and maintain their F-1 or J-1 visa status even if their university switches to a fully remote mode of instruction as long as they continue to be enrolled and participating in courses full-time.

Yes. International students with active F-1 or J-1 SEVIS records may take a leave of absence from CU Boulder if they are not returning to the U.S. and choose not to enroll in any CU Boulder online or remote courses. Students wishing to take a total leave of absence (with no enrollment at CU Boulder) should take the following steps:

Please email or drop-in for ISSS remote advising via Zoom if you have questions or concerns. (Sponsored students, please email

Yes. While we encourage international students in F-1 or J-1 student status to complete the leave of absence process as soon as they finalize their fall plans, International students in F-1 or J-1 student status must submit the leave of absence request by census date, September 11, 2020.

Immigration Documents & Travel to Campus

No. The SEVP guidance issued on July 6, 2020 was rescinded (withdrawn) on July 14, 2020. It would have required all continuing F-1 international students to acquire an I-20 with a notation from ISSS. This is no longer required.

If you are currently outside of the United States, prior to entering the United States F-1 or J-1 students must ensure that they have an active SEVIS record and a travel signature (on p. 2 of the I-20, on p. 1 of the DS-2019) provided by ISSS that will not be more than 12 months old when they seek to re-enter the United States. Please review the ISSS Travel Handout.

Your F-1 or J-1 student visa can expire while you are present inside of the United States and maintaining status, but an unexpired visa is required to re-enter the United States (exception: automatic visa revalidation).
  • If you are outside the U.S. with an expired F-1 or J-1 visa, you will require a valid visa to seek re-entry to the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic response has not impacted this requirement.

New undergraduate students must arrive by August 9, 2020, while new graduate students must arrive by September 11, 2020. Please contact international admissions to discuss deferring your start date:

Please review the U.S. entry restrictions; U.S. consulate and embassy websites for information about routine visa services; and self-quarantine recommendation information on the websites below:

Please email (or for sponsored students) or attend ISSS remote advising via Zoom if you have questions or concerns.

Continuing undergraduate and graduate international students unable to arrive in the U.S. before classes begin on August 24, 2020 must communicate with their professors and academic advisors in advance.
  • Undergraduate students cannot enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status later than the census date, September 11, 2020 as they will not be eligible to begin classes.
  • Continuing graduate students must work with their sponsoring departments to determine the latest date that they may arrive on campus for the fall 2020 semester.

The university is expecting students arriving from outside the U.S. to voluntarily self-isolate and remain off campus for 14 days before any in-person, on-campus contact is made.

Health Insurance

F-1 students studying online, outside of the U.S. for the fall 2020 semester will not be required to have health insurance but must complete a health insurance waiver application in their secure health portal before September 11, 2020. If you have any questions about this process, please email

J-1 students are still required to meet the immigration regulations that require J-1 exchange visitors and accompanying J-2 dependents to maintain comprehensive medical insurance with evacuation and repatriation coverage that meets U.S. government minimum requirements beginning on the start date of the J-1 program continuing to the end of the J-1 program. There cannot be any breaks or lapses in insurance coverage even if one travels outside the U.S for an extended period of time during the J program. Please review the Insurance Resource List for further information.


No. The SEVP guidance does not impact OPT, STEM OPT, or CPT opportunities. Please email (or if you are a sponsored student) or attend ISSS remote advising via Zoom if you have further questions about your employment options.

Please carefully review the ISSS CPT webpage as well as the CPT Application Instructions for information regarding the CPT eligibility requirements and application instructions. You will need to submit the CPT Agreement Form via DocuSign.

F-1 students completing their program requirements in fall 2020 can apply for OPT as early as September 14, 2020.

Please closely review the OPT I-20 Request Instructions and Documentation Requirements to ensure you have completed your application materials correctly. Afterwards you will need to complete and submit the OPT I-20 Request Form via DocuSign.

Please note the following:

  • Your academic advisor can sign your OPT I-20 Request Form electronically.
  • You do not have to submit copies of your passport photos to ISSS. Please confirm that your passport photos meet the requirements as listed on the Travel.State.Gov website prior to submitting your OPT application to USCIS.
  • After ISSS reviews and processes your request, we will email you a list of suggestions we recommend you make to your OPT application, as well as the OPT Mailing Instructions and the OPT Reporting Requirements. We will also mail your new I-20 that recommends OPT to you at your local address as indicated in the Buff Portal.
  • To ensure the document is mailed to the correct address, please confirm that your current local address is in your Buff Portal and update it if necessary. Please review the Updating Your Address in Buff Portal handout for more information on how to update your address.

ISSS advises against applying for OPT from outside of the U.S. or giving your OPT application materials to a relative or friend to have them submit the application for you. It is possible that USCIS will not accept your application if you are outside of the U.S. when they receive it. At this time, ISSS recommends waiting to leave the U.S. until USCIS has received your application. September 14, 2020 is the first day students completing their program in fall 2020 can apply for OPT.

Yes. You can depart the U.S. with a pending OPT application. Be sure you have your OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature, active visa and your Receipt Notice from USCIS that shows you have applied for OPT.

There are a few things to be aware of if traveling with a pending OPT application:

  • If your OPT application is denied while you are outside of the U.S., you cannot re-enter the US in F-1 status to re-apply for OPT. It may be possible to re-enter the US in another visa category (for example, ESTA or tourist visa), but you would no longer be eligible for OPT.
  • If additional information is needed for your OPT application, USCIS would mail you a request for evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE you would need to respond in a certain amount of time and you may have difficulty responding to any request(s) for evidence from USCIS while you are outside of the U.S. which could result in an OPT denial.
  • Future travel restrictions could impede your ability to return to the U.S.; travel restrictions may change at a moment’s notice. You will need to carefully consult both the airline and the travel restrictions for the country to which you will be returning to the U.S. from.

If your OPT is approved while you’re abroad, you should have your EAD card with you on your return. Please review International Student Travel FAQ for students on OPT.